Let’s just say this bad-ass weightlifting lady was never me. I have always thought of myself as weak and un-athletic. Oh, I tried exercise as a kid. I played soccer, and my team lost all our games. I scored one and only one goal in my three seasons of rec soccer, and I had intended the kick to be a pass to my teammate. It rolled past her, and through the legs of the goalie on accident.
In college we were required to take at least two physical education credits. I signed up for a Self-Defense for Women class, and got my first taste of empowerment. We practiced our self-defense moves with partners and for our final I broke a board with my bare hands (on the second try- I got scared and pulled back on my first attempt).
Beyond learning to protect my body, I discovered that exercise can feel good even if you are un-athletic and uncoordinated like me. I found myself energized after class, even though I thought I should be tired. My mood was sunnier. Could this really be the result of the dreaded EXERCISE????
Our culture has encouraged us to think of exercise as a means to looking good. I once ran into a friend at a Zumba class, and she told me, “You don’t need to work out!” (Translation: “You are not that fat- you could stay home and skip all this effort.”)
Oh but I do need exercise. I need it like air. Otherwise despair creeps in. Otherwise depression looms. For me, exercise is all about the mood boost. It is about how I feel, not how I look.
As I say this, I realize I am genetically privileged to look not so far off from how the horrible magazine images tell me women should look. I honor all bodies and experiences and I am not saying it is a bad thing to exercise for reasons of beauty or health.
I am speaking for myself, that the exercise-induced serotonin boost in my brain has been life-saving. On my journey of healing after childhood sexual assault, I have become well-acquainted with anxiety and depression. I have had my nights of despair. Yet I know the sun will rise, and if I am feeling down, I can do some yoga, take a walk or hop on our second-hand elliptical machine. (Yes, it looks ugly in my living room, and yes it is still worth it).
I boost my heart rate and I boost my mood. Then I can take on the world.
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash